Saturday, September 26, 2020

Quick visit to Roger's Gardens, Orange County's premier destination nursery

I just got back from a quick trip to Southern California to drop daughter #2 off at college (again). Traffic through the Los Angeles area was busier than at the end of March when we picked her up—and shelter-in-place ordinances had just gone into effect—but not as bad a pre-COVID days.

I did manage to carve out time for a few plant-related outings. The first one was to Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar (essentially Newport Beach). Roger's Gardens has a storied history. From the beginning, it's been more than just a business selling plants. Today, its motto is “Discover, Experience, Connect,“ and its inventory is as heavy on home decor as it is on plants. A well-loved restaurant focusing on locally sourced foods and seasonal boutiques round out the offerings that make Roger's Gardens a destination for shoppers from Orange and neighboring counties.

Newport Beach is one of the wealthiest communities in California (their striking Civic Center is a succulent wonderland), and Roger's Gardens is clearly targeting the well-heeled local clientele. As they say, if you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it. I'm only half joking.

Having said that, here are some grab shots from my quick visit to Roger's Gardens last Tuesday afternoon:

All garbage cans should look like this! Of course, there's no telling how long they would remain this pristine out in public.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Look at the spines on these cacti!

I pay a lot of attention when I visit other gardens. Interesting details jump out at me seemingly on their own. The same cannot always be said for our own garden. Maybe it's because I see the plants on a constant basis so I take their special characteristics for granted?

But taking the time to smell the roses look closer can reveal amazing things. This post is a great example. Take a look at the loooooong spines on these two cacti! Whether you're a fan of spiky plants or not, you've got to admit that these are impressive!


Some of the spines on this Ferocactus rectispinus are a full 6 inches long! That's more than 15 cm for all the metric folks out there.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Smoke-filled visit to Troy McGregor's fusion garden

Last Saturday the air quality index in Northern California was firmly in the unhealthy-bordering-on-hazardous range. Not as bad as in Southern California, Oregon and Washington, but still bad enough. 

Not that I let myself be stopped by that. Sick of being cooped up inside, I made the 1-hour drive to Martinez to pick up some plants from plantsman extraordinaire Troy McGregor, former nursery manager at the Ruth Bancroft Garden and now in business for himself creating low-water landscapes. Troy is one of the chief enablers of my plant hoarding; may the universe bless him for that.

I've blogged about Troy's garden before (October 2018 ⏐ September 2018 ⏐ April 2018), but it's constantly evolving so there's always something new to see. Troy used the downtime resulting from COVID-19 restrictions earlier in the year very well—all too often, landscape designers have no time for their own space.

The biggest change is the addition of a chicken coop in the backyard. But it's not a haphazardly thrown together structure, it's a fowl log cabin:


Sunday, September 13, 2020

When it's hard to breathe, give yourself license to take it easy

The smoke from wildfire continues to hang heavy in the air, leading to unhealthy (or worse) hazard air quality index (AQI) readings. As bad as our air seems, it pales in comparison to the off-the-charts AQI values in Oregon. Portland has been in the high 400s (on a scale from 0 to 500), and some areas have reported readings in the 700s—apparently something never thought possible by the creators of the AQI scale. My heart goes out to everybody affected.

I took the following photo yesterday on Interstate 80 between Vacaville and Fairfield. This area was burning not even a month ago as part of the 350,000 acre LNU Lightning Complex fires. The hills you see in the distance are black now instead of brown.

I applied a stack of effects to this photo so you can clearly see the smoke in the air

Monday, September 7, 2020

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley: New World Desert (August 2020)

At the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (UCBG), the hill that is home to the Southern Africa Collection looks down (literally) at the New World Desert. This is what you see:


If this were my garden, I'd be ecstatic!

With so many agaves, there's always something in bloom. Here's an octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) whose flower stalk is covered with bulbils—miniature plants which, in time, will detach and fall to the ground where they will hopefully find a bit of soil to root in. But that's in nature; I'm sure that at the UCBG the inflorescence will be harvested.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley: South African Collection (August 2020)

The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley (UCBG) is open daily from 12 to 5 pm, but visitors need to make a reservation. Fortunately, that's easy to do online, and same-day reservations are usually available. The upside of the reservation system is that fewer people visit at any given time, making it much easier to find parking at the Garden's parking lot.

In late July, I blogged about the Mexico and Central America Collection and the Australasia Collection. This post is about the Southern Africa Collection; the next one will be about the New World Desert.

The Southern Africa Collection features everything from spring-blooming bulbs (now dormant), to proteas, ericas and restios, to cycads. What I'm most interested in, of course, are the succulents, especially aloes. 

While late winter/early spring is the best time to see aloes in bloom, there were a few even now. But aloes are beautiful year-round; the flowers are just a temporary bonus.

The beauty in the middle is the tilt-head aloe (Aloe speciosa).
As its common name suggests, the head is tilted towards the sun instead of growing straight up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Mariel's collector garden: more plant fun in the sun

This post continues where part 1 left off. It covers the area marked #2 in the satellite photo shown in part 1.

The side yard on the south side of Mariel and Ian's property gets full afternoon sun. To take advantage of this, Mariel created a couple of mounds planted with a wide variety of succulents:


Take a look at the slabs of stone framing this bed:

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mariel's collector garden: succulents, pots, fairies and goblins

Visits to private gardens have been few and far between this year, but on Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the garden of Mariel Dennis, the President of the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society (SCSS). I'd last seen Mariel's garden in June 2017, and I was eager to find out what had changed.

In a nutshell: Mariel has greatly increased her collection of potted succulents. I don't think I've ever seen a private garden with as many potted specimens. I was joking that one might think they've walked into an upscale garden shop where rare plants were sold in matching pots. 

Mariel is a serious collector, but she has a sense of humor and a taste for the whimsical:

I had so much fun exploring Mariel's garden and collection that I took 200+ photos. Even with rigorous editing, that leaves too many images for one post, so I'll have two: one about the area marked #1 in the satellite image below, and the other about the area marked #2:

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Mid-year reality check

Gardening is fun, at least most of the time. But many things are out of our control, and we simply have to accept the fact that s*#t happens. Especially in the year 2020 which seems doggedly determined to wobble from bad to worse. 

As if COVID-19 weren't enough, we just went through the most oppressive heat wave in years. And now California is burning: 300+ wildfires caused by lightning strikes combined with extreme dryness. Davis is not in any danger, but a pall of smoke has been hanging in the air for almost a week, leading to apocalyptic-looking skies and very unhealthy air.

Early evening sky from our front yard

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

UC Davis Arboretum in the midday sun

It turns out it's not only Englishmen and mad dogs who go out in the midday sun. I did, too, on Sunday when it was 102°F out. It started out as a joke with my wife and daughter, but then it became a dare, and I simply couldn't back down. That's how I found myself on the UC Davis campus at 12:30pm with the sun beating down on me.

I only lasted for 45 minutes, but I managed to check on a few things, including the Arboretum Teaching Nursery where the plant sales are held: usually three in the spring and three in the fall. In a normal year, that is. In 2020, all plant sales have been canceled—just another nail in the coffin of this terrible year. In the meantime, the 50,000+ sale plants in the nursery are being cared for by a skeleton crew. They'll be extra large next year when (knock on wood!) the plant sales will resume.


Me longingly peeking through the chain-link fence into the nursery: